Skin colour also matters in Europe – more than the white majority tends to think

Members of white majority groups sometimes find it difficult to believe that a darker skin colour could change your experience in many areas of life. Therefore, robust data on prevailing bias and discrimination is important. A recent ENAR shadow report provides new insight in the situation in Europe.

Employment is one of the areas where people of African descent and Black Europeans experience racism and discrimination. Education, policing and other areas of Public life such as the criminal justice system are other fields where concrete bias is reported. These are some of the conclusions of the Shadow Report on Afrophobia in Europe published by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). The first – according to the publisher – pan-European qualitative survey on people of African descent and Black Europeans draws upon a number of existing studies from various sources and bodies.

Discrimination in employment is described to be prevalent and barriers are described at every stage of the employment process, preventing black people from gaining and retaining employment that matches their skills and experience. In the United Kingdom, for example, applicants with an African sounding surname need to send twice as many job applications as those with a White British sounding name to get an interview. “Application experiments with identical CVs and varying names, birthplaces or addresses show a clear bias in the table-screening phase in many European countries”, adds Diversity expert, Michael Stuber, who works on addressing bias in all relevant areas. The ENAR report quotes statistics from across EU Member States showing that, as a result, people with an African origin have systematically higher unemployment rates than the national average. In Finland, for instance, unemployment rates are more than three times higher for people of African origin (41.2%) compared to the national average (8.7%).

Already at school, black pupils experience racism such as racist bullying and biased teaching materials and practices. Teachers’ influence and racial discrimination of Black pupils can have significant implications on educational attainment and life chances of Black people, the ENAR report says. In the Netherlands, pupils of African descent were under-evaluated by teachers, despite higher scores in a test to determine the level of education pupils may proceed to.

Other examples of discrimination include refusal of health treatment for Black people and prejudice shown by health care staff; significant discrimination in the private rental market; and stereotypical images in the media where Black people are either depicted as criminals and irregular migrants or as performers.

“In the context of the current refugee discussion, racist political discourse and anti-immigration attitudes are given unfortunate media attention”, Michael Stuber notes. The ENAR report also points to an increase in violent hatred and discrimination specifically experienced by people of colour and Muslims. “I hear concrete, unbelievable stories from D&I colleagues who I meet at International conferences”, Stuber adds, referring to racist incidences he was told by British D&I practitioners who had travelled to the U.S., France and other countries, where Customs and Immigration staff displayed clearly racist behaviour. “The Public Sector must get their house in order”, he requests, referring to the ongoing criticism of governments directed at the Corporate world. The ENAR report backs his assessment as it reports some law enforcement personnel displaying clearly racist behaviours and the police forces in some Member States are described as institutionally racist.

“There is not a single national or European policy that specifically addresses the racial inequalities and discrimination experienced by Black people”, said ENAR Chair Sarah Isal. “Given the overwhelming evidence, this is shocking. We cannot just ignore the lives of the 12 million Black people in Europe. This is a wake-up call to the EU and its Member States to end structural discrimination against Black people. We need an EU Framework for national strategies to combat Afrophobia and promote the inclusion of people of African descent, with clear targets and indicators.”